Then the door opens, and it’s not Logan I see, but Tommy Sullivan—like I’ve never seen him before. Shirtless, with low-slung jeans hanging haphazardly off his hips and a cigarette between his lips.
Tommy’s a hottie. Not the same kind of Adonis perfection that Logan is, but still a fine-looking boy.
“Ellie!” He smiles, seemingly happy to see me. Tommy’s always happy. He takes the cigarette from his mouth. “What are you doing here, pet? Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, no, everything’s fine. Is Logan home?”
Tommy raises his eyebrows, questioning, but doesn’t ask. Instead he turns his head toward the interior of the apartment and shouts, “Lo!”
He leans out the door. “I’d invite you in, but it’s no place for a girl like you. We’re all indecent here.”
And doesn’t that just get my imagination working overtime.
Then Logan is filling the doorway, looking surprised.
But I barely notice his expression.
Because Logan is shirtless too. And in the immortal words of Joey Lawrence . . . whoa.
Smooth, taut skin covers his shoulders and chest—bronze, except for the stunning swirl of colorful tattoos that spread across one shoulder and all the way down one arm. His arms are big, bulging with muscle—cut, tight. He has abs—lots and lots of abs—rock hard and rippling, with a slight dusting of hair low on his stomach, that makes the happiest of all trails into his jeans. It’s a beautiful body. A man’s body.
He glances up and down the hall. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re here by yourself?”
He sounds annoyed and I start to think maybe this wasn’t just a stupid idea, but possibly the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. And through the years, I’ve had some doozies.
Even if Cory had been awake, he’s not the one I wanted to share my news with. And I didn’t want him coming with me here. Because I wanted to talk to Logan—alone.
“He’s back at the coffee shop.”
“You snuck past him?” Logan asks, like he doesn’t believe it.
His sexy muscles swell as he folds his arms. “Then how did you get here without him? Exactly?”
I try to come up with a good excuse for Cory’s sake . . . but lying has never been my thing.
“He fell asleep.”
Wrong answer. Logan’s eyes grow hot and intense.
“He seemed really tired. Don’t be mad, Logan.”
He pushes a hand through his dark hair, and for a moment I’m caught up in how soft and thick it looks. How it would feel between my fingers.
And then a voice calls from inside the apartment—a voice that doesn’t belong to one of the guys.
“Let’s go, Logan. It’s your turn to deal.”
She comes into view and she’s not just “buxom”—it’s like the word was invented for her. Big, shiny red hair, flawless skin, legs as long as my whole body encased in tight, might-be-painted-on jeans, a teeny waist and big boobs covered by an even teenier black tank-top.
She looks like the head manager at Hooter’s in man-only heaven.
Her green eyes slide from Logan over to me, then back again. “Oh, sorry—I didn’t realize you had a visitor.” She smiles. “Is this your little sister?”
You know the sound a balloon makes when it’s dying?
That’s my heart—right now.
He puts his hand on her bare arm and the weirdest combination of sadness and violence consumes me. I want to cry . . . and bite his hand off like an outraged chimpanzee.
“Go back in. Tell Tommy to deal.”
Deal? Are they playing strip poker?! Kill me, kill me, die, die, die . . .
After she fades back, I shuffle my feet. “Sorry to interrupt.”
“It’s fine.” He says softly, “What do you need, Ellie?”
“Nothing. Never mind. You should go back to your . . . friend.”
Logan shakes his head. “She’s Tommy’s friend.”
But what is she to him? More than a friend? A fuck-buddy? A lover?
My stomach spins. I’m such an idiot.
“That’s good. Friends are good.” I hook my thumb over my shoulder. “I’m just gonna head out. Skedaddle.”
’Cause nothing says mature, sophisticated woman like “skedaddle.” Christ on a Ritz cracker, somebody nail my tongue to the wall.
But I’m already turning, skipping the elevator and heading right for the stairs, trying to appear dignified while bleaching the image of Logan touching that woman from my mind.
“Fuck . . .”
And the sound of the slamming door chases me down the stairwell.
Out on the street, the air is humid and the cars are loud, honking. It’s after eleven p.m., so the sidewalk isn’t too crowded, but it’s busy enough that I should be able to give Logan the slip if he tries to follow me.
Or I would be . . . if I were dealing with an average guy.
“Ellie! Hold up!”
There’s nothing average about Logan St. James.
I make it one block before he’s standing right in front of me, blocking my way. He’s got a shirt on, but it’s only half-buttoned.
“Why’d you run away so fast?”
I shrug, tapping a quick beat against my outer thighs. “You know how it is—places to go, people to see.”
Logan bends his neck forward, lowering his head, catching my eyes and holding on tight.
“Why’d you come here? Tell me the truth.”
“It’s not a big deal . . .” I sigh, feeling small and stupid.
“Tell me anyway.”
I look down at the cracked sidewalk. “Remember the other day, that last exam I was studying for?”
He snorts. “Yeah—physics, wasn’t it?”
“I got my grade back.” I slip the paper out of my pocket, holding it up. “I aced it.”
And for the first time, I say out loud, “I’m valedictorian.”
Logan gazes at the paper for a long moment. And when he takes it, I feel the brush of his finger against mine.
“Look at that,” he says with awe. “That’s brilliant. Smart girl.” His large hand moves to my shoulder, squeezing. And I feel it everywhere. Warmth tingles through me, from the top of my ears to the tips of my toes.
My mouth stretches so far into a smile, tears spring up in my eyes. “Thanks. I just . . . I wanted to tell someone.”
Him. I wanted to tell him.
Because he’s gorgeous, but even more than that—he makes me feel wanted. Valued and important, like I’m someone worth protecting. Knowing this man would give his life to shield me, guard me from pain or danger—it’s a heady thing. An arousing, stirring thing.
I lost my virginity to Aaron Myers after the winter formal last year. I’d known Aaron since I was a kid, he’s a good guy. It wasn’t true love, it was just something we ended up doing, and it was nice. A good memory.
But now, I wish I had waited. For Logan. I know it’s stupid and would never happen, but if in some upside down, alternate universe, it did happen—he would make the earth move for me. I feel more alive just standing next to him, than I have around anyone else. I can only imagine, dream, what it would be like to be held in his arms, to feel the power of his body, his passion and tenderness, surrounding me, inside me.
“I’m glad it was me.” His hand squeezes again. “Let’s walk you home.”
“You don’t have to.”
As much as I love being around Logan, I don’t want to be annoying. Don’t want to become a nuisance to him.
“Aye, I do. It’s not safe.”
I roll my eyes to the skyscrapers. “I grew up in New York—it’s my city—I know it better than you do. We’re in Tribeca, for God’s sake . . . it’s not dangerous.”
“You’re a young, beautiful girl, Ellie. The whole world is dangerous for you.”